I looked at the dance floor; a wide gap had formed in the center of the floor, where two couples whirled gracefully. The other dancers pressed to the sides of the room to give them space — no one wanted to stand in contrast with such radiance. Emmett and Jasper were intimidating and flawless in classic tuxedos. Alice was striking in a black satin dress with geometric cutouts that bared large triangles of her snowy white skin. And Rosalie was… well, Rosalie. She was beyond belief. Her vivid scarlet dress was backless, tight to her calves where it flared into a wide ruffled train, with a neckline that plunged to her waist. I pitied every girl in the room, myself included.
"Do you want me to bolt the doors so you can massacre the unsuspecting townsfolk?" I whispered conspiratorially.
"And where do you fit into that scheme?" He glared.
"Oh, I'm with the vampires, of course."
He smiled reluctantly. "Anything to get out of dancing."
He bought our tickets, then turned me toward the dance floor. I cringed against his arm and dragged my feet.
"I've got all night," he warned.
Eventually he towed me out to where his family was twirling elegantly — if in a style totally unsuitable to the present time and music. I watched in horror.
"Edward." My throat was so dry I could only manage a whisper. "I honestly can't dance!" I could feel the panic bubbling up inside my chest.
"Don't worry, silly," he whispered back. "I can." He put my arms around his neck and lifted me to slide his feet under mine.
And then we were whirling, too.
"I feel like I'm five years old," I laughed after a few minutes of effortless waltzing.
"You don't look five," he murmured, pulling me closer for a second, so that my feet were briefly a foot from the ground.
Alice caught my eye on a turn and smiled in encouragement — I smiled back. I was surprised to realize that I was actually enjoying myself… a little.
"Okay, this isn't half bad," I admitted.
But Edward was staring toward the doors, and his face was angry.
"What is it?" I wondered aloud. I followed his gaze, disoriented by the spinning, but finally I could see what was bothering him. Jacob Black, not in a tux, but in a long-sleeved white shirt and tie, his hair smoothed back into his usual ponytail, was crossing the floor toward us.
After the first shock of recognition, I couldn't help but feel bad for Jacob. He was clearly uncomfortable — excruciatingly so. His face was apologetic as his eyes met mine.
Edward snarled very quietly.
"Behave!" I hissed.
Edward's voice was scathing. "He wants to chat with you."
Jacob reached us then, the embarrassment and apology even more evident on his face.
"Hey, Bella, I was hoping you would be here." Jacob sounded like he'd been hoping the exact opposite. But his smile was just as warm as ever.
"Hi, Jacob." I smiled back. "What's up?"
"Can I cut in?" he asked tentatively, glancing at Edward for the first time. I was shocked to notice that Jacob didn't have to look up. He must have grown half a foot since the first time I'd seen him.
Edward's face was composed, his expression blank. His only answer was to set me carefully on my feet, and take a step back.
"Thanks," Jacob said amiably.
Edward just nodded, looking at me intently before he turned to walk away.
Jacob put his hands on my waist, and I reached up to put my hands on his shoulders.
"Wow, Jake, how tall are you now?"
He was smug. "Six-two."
We weren't really dancing — my leg made that impossible. Instead we swayed awkwardly from side to side without moving our feet. It was just as well; the recent growth spurt had left him looking gangly and uncoordinated, he was probably no better a dancer than I was.
"So, how did you end up here tonight?" I asked without true curiosity. Considering Edward's reaction, I could guess.
"Can you believe my dad paid me twenty bucks to come to your prom?" he admitted, slightly ashamed.
"Yes, I can," I muttered. "Well, I hope you're enjoying yourself, at least. Seen anything you like?" I teased, nodding toward a group of girls lined up against the wall like pastel confections.
"Yeah," he sighed. "But she's taken."
He glanced down to meet my curious gaze for just a second — then we both looked away, embarrassed.
"You look really pretty, by the way," he added shyly.
"Um, thanks. So why did Billy pay you to come here?" I asked quickly, though I knew the answer.
Jacob didn't seem grateful for the subject change; he looked away, uncomfortable again. "He said it was a 'safe' place to talk to you. I swear the old man is losing his mind."
I joined in his laughter weakly.
"Anyway, he said that if I told you something, he would get me that master cylinder I need," he confessed with a sheepish grin.
"Tell me, then. I want you to get your car finished." I grinned back. At least Jacob didn't believe any of this. It made the situation a bit easier. Against the wall, Edward was watching my face, his own face expressionless. I saw a sophomore in a pink dress eyeing him with timid speculation, but he didn't seem to be aware of her.
Jacob looked away again, ashamed. "Don't get mad, okay?"
"There's no way I'll be mad at you, Jacob," I assured him. "I won't even be mad at Billy. Just say what you have to."
"Well — this is so stupid, I'm sorry, Bella — he wants you to break up with your boyfriend. He asked me to tell you 'please.'" He shook his head in disgust.
"He's still superstitious, eh?"
"Yeah. He was… kind of over the top when you got hurt down in Phoenix. He didn't believe…"Jacob trailed off self-consciously.
My eyes narrowed. "I fell."
"I know that," Jacob said quickly.
"He thinks Edward had something to do with me getting hurt." It wasn't a question, and despite my promise, I was angry.
Jacob wouldn't meet my eyes. We weren't even bothering to sway to the music, though his hands were still on my waist, and mine around his neck.
"Look, Jacob, I know Billy probably won't believe this, but just so you know" — he looked at me now, responding to the new earnestness in my voice — "Edward really did save my life. If it weren't for Edward and his father, I'd be dead."
"I know," he claimed, but he sounded like my sincere words had affected him some. Maybe he'd be able to convince Billy of this much, at least.
"Hey, I'm sorry you had to come do this, Jacob," I apologized. "At any rate, you get your parts, right?"
"Yeah," he muttered. He was still looking awkward… upset.
"There's more?" I asked in disbelief.
"Forget it," he mumbled, "I'll get a job and save the money myself."
I glared at him until he met my gaze. "Just spit it out, Jacob."
"It's so bad."
"I don't care. Tell me," I insisted.
"Okay… but, geez, this sounds bad." He shook his head. "He said to tell you, no, to warn you, that — and this is his plural, not mine" — he lifted one hand from my waist and made little quotations marks in the air — '"We'll be watching.'" He watched warily for my reaction.
It sounded like something from a mafia movie. I laughed out loud.
"Sorry you had to do this, Jake," I snickered.
"I don't mind that much." He grinned in relief. His eyes were appraising as they raked quickly over my dress. "So, should I tell him you said to butt the hell out?" he asked hopefully.
"No," I sighed. "Tell him I said thanks. I know he means well."
The song ended, and I dropped my arms.
His hands hesitated at my waist, and he glanced at my bum leg. "Do you want to dance again? Or can I help you get somewhere?"
Edward answered for me. "That's all right, Jacob. I'll take it from here."
Jacob flinched, and stared wide-eyed at Edward, who stood just beside us.
"Hey, I didn't see you there," he mumbled. "I guess I'll see you around, Bella." He stepped back, waving halfheartedly.
I smiled. "Yeah, I'll see you later."
"Sorry," he said again before he turned for the door.